Ethan Allen looks to bed down in Midtown South

Home furnishing company arranging space near Madison Park

915 Broadway and Ethan Allen CEO M. Farooq Kathwari
915 Broadway and Ethan Allen CEO M. Farooq Kathwari

Contemporary home furnishings retailer Ethan Allen is planning to bring its Uptown Dining Collection to Midtown South, where it will join a growing collection of trendy design stores that now make the area home.

The Connecticut-based furniture chain is negotiating an 8,000-square-foot lease at the base of 915 Broadway, a 20-story office building owned by a group of investors headed Earl Altman of ABS Partners Real Estate, sources close to the talks told The Real Deal.

The deal covers 4,800 square feet on the ground floor with the remainder split between cellar and mezzanine levels, with a blended asking rent of about $300 per square foot. ABS brokers John Brod and Mark Tergesen are negotiating on the landlord side.

Home furnishing and design stores have proliferated in the city coinciding with the residential building boom, and the areas around Madison Square Park have been particularly popular.

Along with high-end condo conversions in the area such as the Witkoff Group’s 200 Fifth Avenue and Madison Equities’ 212 Fifth Avenue, the home furnishing stores are also drawn to Midtown South for rents that are far lower than posh neighborhoods like Soho.

“Madison Square Park is a magnet for the type of clientele who will shop at these high-end furniture stores,” said Ross Burack of Winick Realty Group, which is marketing a retail space to high-end design tenants at the Moinian Group’s Nearby 23 East 26th Street.

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“[The area] is an epicenter for not only high-end residential development but also restaurants thanks to Shake Shack and Eataly,” Burack added. “And it is one of the most sought-after office locations in the entire city with brands like Sony moving their corporate offices there.”

Italian furniture designer Poliform earlier this summer signed a lease for 10,000 square feet a few blocks north of the park at 112 Madison Avenue. And within the past two weeks, Spanish kitchen-and-bath shop Porcelanosa opened its $40 million Sir Norman Foster-designed showroom and offices at the former Criterion building at the crux of Fifth Avenue and Broadway.

Ethan Allen, whose glossy catalogs feature designs such as the “Tuft Love Living Room” and the “Uptown Dining Room,” has a much larger location next to Bloomingdale’s at 1010 Third Avenue, spanning 30,000 square feet. The company opened its flagship store in 2008 amid a downsizing of its national footprint, when it closed a pair of stores on either side of Central Park.

Activist investor Thomas Sandell is fighting a proxy war in an effort to wrestle control of the home furnishing company from its executives.

Sandell, who launched his campaign in August, said the company should consider monetizing its real estate assets through a series of leaseback transactions or even create a real estate investment trust.